Last updated: 28.04.14

Better training for low-paid staff 'key to rising productivity'

Better training for low paid members of staff is the key to overcoming the UK's chronic productivity problem and boosting output levels across the economy, according to a think-tank.

In new research published this week, the Social Market Foundation suggested that helping lower paid people improve their skills so that they can progress into better paid jobs will encourage greater levels of engagement and productivity in the workplace.

According to the Financial Times, the researchers found that as many as three million people have been stuck in low-paid jobs for more than a year, while a significant proportion of this number have been in such a situation for over a decade.

As such, being in work does not currently offer an effective route out of poverty, the report continued, meaning that the low-paid workforce remains unmotivated to improve productivity - on these shores, output per hour worked is 26 per cent behind the US, on average, and typically 24 per cent behind Germany and France.

Looking at the issue more broadly, the think-tank also suggested that the failure of low-paid employment to offer people avenues out of poverty contributes to the need for what it referred to as "colossal" state spending in the form of £21 billion a year on employment tax credits.

Nigel Keohane, co-author of the report, was quoted by the newspaper explaining that more action needs to be taken to deal with the large number of people stuck working with only low-level skills and low level qualifications.

Commenting on the thinking behind the report, he said; "Instead of regulating wages, we were more interested in thinking about how to improve the skills of those workers so that they are worth a higher wage to the economy, and businesses are ready to pay more."

It is possible for employers to begin upskilling low-paid staff without investing large sums in training. In the food services industry for example, Virtual College has trained over 180,000 people online on Food Hygiene and Safety, with prices starting at as little as £15 per person for a two hour course.